At the end of March NAG joined a webinar hosted by the company, R4C, responsible for organising the public consultation on the AONB boundary review. Natural England were present to answer questions about the process so far and next steps. It was a very informative session, and we have attached the slides to this article.

The presentation reported on the very healthy level of public engagement with the initial consultation exercise, as can be seen by the number of flags on the map on slide 15. It also provided background on the nature of the overall process and what the next steps will be. These are outlined on the final slide in the deck: slide 26. What happens now is that all the data collected in phase 1 is analysed, allowing Natural England to formulate recommendations about extensions to the existing AONB. These will then be the subject of further public, and statutory, consultation beginning in early 2023. It may be that there are objections to the proposals, which could even lead to a public enquiry before a final decison is reached by the Secretary of State. So the message was that we should not expect an outcome before mid-2023 at the earliest!

Other points that arose in the discussion included the nature of a boundary; it has to be 'hard', i.e. something that is durable. So, rather surprisingly, we were told that normally a river or stream would not be considered a hard boundary, as watercourses can be altered! We were interested in this because it affects whether any northward extension from Wanborough towards Flexford would have to stop short at the railway line or could go beyond it. Our understanding was that the railway line need not form a barrier, but in this case there would need to be some other hard boundary further north.

We were also keen to ascertain how, if there has been unauthorised development in an AGLV, and if this is subject to Enforcement action by the Local Planning Authority, this might this impact on the assessment of natural beauty. Would Natural England aim off for potentially reversible degradations to the landscape - fly tipping was mentioned (see slide 25), but we added the unauthorised erection of fences, sheds, etc in an AGLV subject to an Article 4 Direction, and where Enforcement Notices have been served - or be obliged to accept them as a fait accompli? Obviously we had Wanborough Fields very much in mind. We didn't get a definitive answer on this, but it was more encouraging than not!

Finally, it is worth noting the comment in slide 25 that "Initial assessment indicates that only some of the areas considered by stakeholders as representing valued landscape, will qualify for national designation." The presenters clearly felt the need for a degree of expectation management here, perhaps particularly given the enthusiastic public response to the initial consultation. But, equally, from a parochial perspective, we should remember that the area between Wanborough and Flexford at least fell within the pre-determined Evaluation Area 2, which bodes well for its eventual inclusion.

We shall continue to follow the progress of the Review and to keep you informed of any significant developments.

Wednesday the 17th - Published by Normandy Action Group, 166 Glaziers Lane, Guildford GU3 2EB - with thanks to Keith Witham, Surrey County Councillor - Hostgator Coupon Template